Last summer a young woman fled her home as the Taliban took over Afghanistan. She and 10 other family members left the country together, but the two feline members had to stay behind, and no one knew if they'd see them again.
Months later the cats, named Air and Bella, have been reunited with their family.
The humans leave Kabul
Mursal Monir, 24, was a reporter in Kabul, living with her family. That included a brother and sister who were also reporters. As foreign troops were pulled out of the country and the government fell to the Taliban the Monirs decided to leave the country; it wasn't going to be a safe place for people who had worked in the media.
"It was quite difficult for us when we decided to leave," Mursal tells Vancouver is Awesome via her sister Nafisa who translated. "We had no choice but to leave the cats. We lost everything in one day."
They felt forced out by the war and the Taliban turning the country into an unsafe place for reporters and for women, Nafisa explains, saying the Taliban aren't "true Muslims."
"If there is no war, nobody has to go to another country and leave their house, their roots and the place they grow up," she says, noting it's difficult for women to have a voice there because of the Taliban, with education and employment opportunities limited or non-existent.
Mursal left the country heartbroken.
The cats leave Kabul
"It was at that time Mursal was sick (with grief) because of her cats," says Nafisa.
Luckily the cats weren't totally abandoned; relatives of the Monirs' moved into their home and took care of the feline friends.
Meanwhile, Mursal and her family made their way to Islamabad where they stayed for two months, and slowly worked their way to Vancouver, where Nafisa had been living for eight years. They arrived here in early 2022, and have been living in a Vancouver hotel since.
Before leaving Afghanistan Mursal had already connected with Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR), who was working on transporting rescued cats and dogs, some owned by people leaving Afghanistan. She'd brought Air and Bella to the KSAR when they were sick, and had brought in strays off the street.
She was able to reconnect with them and arranged for them to take care of them; they were with KSAR for a couple of months before joining the plane full of furry friends on their difficult journey to Canada at the beginning of February.
The cats and the humans meet in Vancouver
After six months apart and on the other side of the world, Mursal was able to hug Air and Bella again earlier this month.
"I thought when I saw my cats I would cry a lot, but when I saw them I was shocked and froze," says Mursal. "I didn't cry, nothing, just hugged my cats."
At first, Air was a little stand-offish with Mural; the cat tends to hold a short-term grudge after being left behind, even when Mural went away for short trips back in Afghanistan. Bella, on the other hand, expressed her joy at seeing the Monirs.
"Bella was very happy; happy and talking with Mursal and my mom and sister," says Nafisa. "Meow, meow, meow."
Unfortunately, while they were reunited at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the cats haven't been able to leave. It's not because they're being held there, but because of a very Vancouver issue.
"The cats are at the shelter at YVR right now because as Mursal and my family just came a month ago to Vancouver and it's quite difficult to find a place to settle down," says Nafisa.
For now they're able to visit, but the cats have to be left behind after each trip to the airport. They hate it (Mursal and the cats).
They're trying to find a place to live all together, but it's not easy given the housing market and the size of the family; which includes Mursal's parents, a brother, sister and six nephews.
And the two cats.